For about 30 minutes on Oct. 3, British tabloid Daily Mail carried an utterly fictitious article, headlined “Guilty: Amanda Knox looks stunned as appeal against murder conviction is rejected.” That 30 minutes was enough for Seattle Weekly’s own Jon Walczak to notice and call the paper out. And now, a UK-based media-watch organization has done the same. The UK’s Press Complaints Commission has released a blistering report about the Daily Mail story, which was published with not only a false outcome (Knox, as you surely know, was acquitted by the appeals court), but also with completely made-up details and quotes, each tailor made to give the fake story the appearance of sound journalism.Here’s a screen shot of the story when it was live.For example, the story reported that Knox “sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears” and also quoted prosecutors saying “justice has been done” but “it was sad two young people would be spending time in jail.”The paper even included this “timeline” of the events of the trial.It was these specific (and totally made up) details that offended the PCC more than the simple reporting of a false outcome.For its part, the Daily Mail
grudgingly apologized for the article and said that it had prepared two different pieces to run depending on the outcome of the trial (a semi-common practice at certain media outlets), but that it probably shouldn’t have used the made up quotes and details.The PCC agreed, calling the story “clearly not acceptable.”On a personal note, having lived in London, I can tell you that the Daily Mail isn’t exactly known for its tip-top journalistic ethics. So one can rest assured that the editors at the tabloid probably won’t be changing their pre-writing tactics, but rather will work harder next time to not get caught.